Desiderio Lagrange (French-Mexican, 1849-1926)
4 1/4 x 6 1/2 in. (10.8 x 16.51 cm)
Museum Purchase, Gridley W. Tarbell II Fund, 2020.22.1. Artwork in the public domain.
In this photograph, a Black woman holds a white infant dressed in a christening gown, situated against a plain white backdrop. Taken in Mexico, this image demonstrates the widespread use of African American and Black women to care for white families and their children. Young girls were commonly used for domestic service inside the enslaver’s home, which could include caring for children. Oftentimes, adult women had children and families of their own to care for in addition to their obligations to the enslaver’s family. Historian Marcus Wood suggests that one-fifth of white women relied on enslaved women for wet-nursing. Although there are few extant records of the lives of these enslaved caretakers, their roles were documented through portraits commissioned of their white charges.